Even when attempting to say something nice about a conservative, MSNBC somehow managed to stick its foot in its mouth. Resident MSNBC.com voter-ID conspiracy theorist Zachary Roth sickeningly blared in a March 5th piece that “No One Pushes Greg Abbott Around” with an accompanying picture of Mr. Abbott waiving to supporters from his wheelchair.
Roth spent the first three paragraphs in a fairly tame manner, describing how Abbott was left paralyzed at age 26 from a freak accident the Republican sustained while running, before launching into an all-out attack on the Texan. Roth promoted how Abbott “likes to point out that he’s filed 30 lawsuits against “Barack Obama”—never President Obama—and his administration.”
The piece then doubled-down on the hostile profile of Mr. Abbott by pointing out that “Abbott has sued over Obamacare and over administration efforts to fight global warming, and he’s sued Attorney General Eric Holder to let Texas implement its strict voter ID law—a resume item that drew raucous cheers among the nearly all-white crowd in McKinney.”
For his part, Roth did concede that not only did Abbott easily win the Republican primary but is “the overwhelming favorite in the general election” against MSNBC darling Wendy Davis. After his brief admission of reality, the MSNBC reporter went back into attack mode and accused Abbott of wanting to “continue on the hard-right course it’s pursued under current Gov. Rick Perry—only more so.”
After spending the next 10 paragraphs detailing how Abbott’s disability has shaped his outlook on life, Roth brought up his past partisan attacks on the GOP and peddled the liberal line that “It’s fair to put Abbott near the very top of the list of figures who have worked to set back voting rights recently.”
Roth, in keeping up with the “No One Pushes Greg Abbott Around” theme, suggested that despite winning $5.8 million from a wealthy Houston divorce lawyer who’s tree fell on Abbott, the Republican “didn’t emerge from the experience of being paralyzed committed to ensuring that other accident victims have the same recourse he did.” Roth’s argument to support this outlandish theory was that “since the 1990s, he’s supported various conservative efforts to make it harder to sue, including a controversial 2003 Texas law that capped non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000.”
Roth never directly said that Abbott benefited from disability laws that he wants to take away from other Texans, but the MSNBC.com author walked a very thin line:
Abbott’s approach to disability rights tells a similar story. He’s said he supports the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and has benefited from it personally. But as attorney general, he has argued that it’s unconstitutional to force states to comply with the ADA, another far-reaching legal claim.
Abbott marshaled that argument when he fought in a series of cases to prevent disabled Texans from using the ADA to sue the state. In one case, Abbott opposed two deaf defendants who wanted a qualified sign-language interpreter in their courtroom. In another, he went up against a blind professor who asked for reflective tape on the stairs to her office.
“A big point of the ADA was to ensure that states themselves would not discriminate against—and would provide reasonable accommodations to—people with disabilities,” Sam Bagenstos, a leading disability-rights lawyer who has argued several major ADA cases before the Supreme Court, said via email. “Had Abbott’s office prevailed in that argument that would have cut a major hole in the statute.”
Roth’s final section is entitled “Turning Abbott into Akin” he details Wendy Davis’ attempts to use the “war on women” theme against Abbott:
Abbott’s embrace of Nugent—who Abbott called a “fighter for freedom”—may have given Davis’s team their first real opening on that front. The Davis campaign’s countless press release attacks over the issue have focused like a laser not on Nugent’s racial anti-Obama comments, but on his predatory sexual behavior. The goal is to raise doubts about Abbott with women voters—especially the suburban women who the Davis campaign sees as the race’s key swing demographic.
The Davis campaign will keep trying to ignite that gender controversy—and they’ve got no shortage of material to work with. But Abbott might not be easy to portray as the second coming of Todd Akin, the 2012 Missouri GOP Senate hopeful whose comments about “legitimate rape” torpedoed his candidacy.
Roth concluded his nasty Abbott profile by smearing that, “Put simpler: It’s hard to turn a guy into a wheelchair into a villain- no matter his record.” Roth has a long history of using MSNBC.com to rail against the GOP so his latest attack isn’t surprising, but given Abbott’s physical limitations, Roth’s attack is even more disgusting and shameful than it already was.